Upon watching Kepa Arrizabalaga make two costly errors against Southampton, including the typical poor positioning for a last-gasp equalizer, many emotions will have been going through Chelsea fans’ minds. Surprise, though, was absolutely not one of them.
Chelsea: Individual Errors Persist Against Southampton With Familiar Face to Blame
Kepa Arrizabalaga’s Miserable Chelsea Form Continues
Kepa has proven time and time again that he’s a liability and cannot be depended on. Whereas Edouard Mendy instills a sense of calm into his backline, the Spaniard does the opposite. He makes his defenders more nervous, more reckless, and simply worse because they know they cannot rely on their keeper.
Think about the confidence goalkeepers like Alisson bring to their defence. His absence has been felt, and Liverpool have been far worse defensively with Adrian in goal. Mendy had a similar impact on the team before his minor injury.
Of course, Alisson is one of the best in the world and Mendy is nowhere near that level, but Kepa has just been so consistently poor that any adequate, assured keeper has a monumental effect.
In fact, the argument could even be made that Mendy is the most important player in this Chelsea squad. Not that most talented by any means, but the most important to their success. This is because with Kepa in goal, Frank Lampard will never win the Premier League as a manager. He’s simply not good enough.
Willy Caballero is in better form, but he’s also not good enough to lead Chelsea week in, week out. An adequate backup, but not an adequate starter. Having a Premier League-quality keeper is critical, and that’s something Lampard lacked all of last season. Now, hopefully, he has one in Mendy.
Must Be the Last Straw for Chelsea Errors
Many believed that the Liverpool match was Kepa’s last straw, and it should’ve been. But then Mendy got injured, and once again Lampard had to turn to the Spaniard. He may have harbored even the tiniest bit of hope in a turnaround, but Kepa may truly be a lost cause at this point.
Barring his performance last year against Liverpool in the FA Cup, there’s no game where he stood out in a positive way. Any time he made the headlines (which was often), it was for yet another poor performance.
In fact, he’s had so many poor performances that it’s become the norm for him. He isn’t an underperforming top keeper; now his poor form is just the standard form. That’s mainly because everyone’s used to it by now, so much so that it would be a surprise if Kepa ever starts a Premier League match again.
Missing Key Men at the Back
It’s true, conceding three goals obviously cannot be solely pinned on Kepa. The first goal came from a Kai Havertz error in his own half, and the second was almost as much Kurt Zouma‘s fault as it was Kepa’s.
The Frenchman played a slow back pass, and although he had a chance to clear and backed out, it put Kepa in an uncomfortable position. Chelsea have also had a clear inability to defend set-pieces, and the last-gasp equalizer came from another Kepa error, but also a failure to clear their lines.
However, they significantly missed a key player. Thiago Silva, who usually brings that calm and composure to the backline, was fighting fatigue after the international break. At 36, his body has different needs than most, and he needs more time in between matches to rest and recover.
The inclusion of Andreas Christensen over Fikayo Tomori did not go over particularly well with Chelsea supporters, and for good reason. Either way, though, it makes sense that in the absence of both Mendy and Silva the back four were more vulnerable.
Both will be back soon, maybe even by Tuesday’s Champions League opener vs. Sevilla, so we will see just how much of an impact they have upon their returns.
Chelsea’s defence failed its test again on Saturday. Kepa was largely to blame, unsurprisingly, but the defensive line needs to begin to develop under Lampard, and it needs to happen quickly.
With Cesar Azpilicueta, Reece James, Silva, Zouma and Ben Chilwell, the Blues have a solid defensive line, backed up by Mendy in goal. The more they play together, the more comfortable they will get. The more comfortable they get together, the closer Chelsea will be to finally putting these costly individual errors behind them.
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